Mascarene Islands at a Glance
Moving to the Mascarene Islands
The Islands and Their People
Also known as the Mascarenhas Archipelago, the three main islands making up the archipelago are Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, and the remainder of the island group consists of outcrops of volcanic rock. The Mascarene Islands are situated in the Indian Ocean, several hundred kilometers to the east of Madagascar. The islands are named after Pedro Mascarenhas, the Portuguese explorer who discovered Mauritius in 1510. People did not take up permanent residence on the island until years later when the Dutch established a small settlement on the island. In 1715 the French arrived and went on to colonize Mauritius, remaining there until the British took over in 1810. Mauritius finally became an independent nation in 1968.
Today Mauritius is an extremely densely populated country; it covers 2,040 squarekilometers and has a population of 1.3 million. It enjoys tremendous diversity, with expats having settled on the island from Europe, Asia and other parts of Africa. The official language in Mauritius and Rodrigues is English, whereas the French overseas department of Réunion has French as its official language.
Rodrigues is the smallest of the inhabited Mascarene Islands, being 18 km in length and at its widest 8km across, and covering an area of just 108 squarekilometers. It takes its name from Diego Rodriguez, the Portuguese navigator who officially found the island in 1528, although it is now known that the Mascarene Islands had previously been discovered by Arabic explorers several centuries earlier. Rodrigues was taken over by the British in 1810 but is now an autonomous island, forming part of the Republic of Mauritius. Over 41,000 people live in Rodrigues.
Officially known as the Département d’Outre Mer de la Réunion, the island of Réunion covers an area of 2,512 squarekilometers. Approximately 850,000 people live in Réunion. It was colonized by the French during the 17th century, and became a French overseas department in 1982.
The local population of the Mascarene Islands speaks a form of creole, mainly a blend of French, Malagasy and Tamil, with some English and African words as well. However, the official languages of the islands are used in formal situations.
Visas for the Mascarene Islands
Anyone wishing to work in Mauritius must first obtain a residence permit and a work permit. You can apply for a residence permit from the Mauritius Passport and Immigration Office. Work permits are issued by the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations and Employment. You may not work in Mauritius or Rodrigues if you have entered the country using a tourist visa.
If you are moving to Réunion and intend to work there you will need a work permit unless your country of origin is within the EU. If you are from one of the newer members of the EU, check entry requirements, as there are some restrictions for foreign nationals from newly joined countries during a transition period. Anyone from outside the EU who wishes to work in Réunion will need both a work permit and residence permit. If you already have a permanent residence permit for France you are eligible to work in Réunion.
Getting to the Mascarene Islands
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (SSR) at Plaine Magnien is the major international airport for Mauritius, situated to the south east of the capital, Port Louis. Flight operators serving SSR include Air Mauritius, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, and Emirates. Flights to Rodrigues arrive at Sir Gaetan Duval Airport in Plaine Corail. Air Mauritius is currently the only airline which operates flights to Rodrigues.
Several airlines operate flights to Réunion, including Air France, Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, Air Austral and Corsair. Most international flights arrive at Roland Garros Airport at Sainte-Marie, just 7km from the capital city, Saint-Denis. There are also some international flights to the island’s other main airport, Saint Pierre.